Last week it was revealed that 626-630 Fifth, long home to Polish food store Eagle Provisions, and before that to White Eagle Market, is on the market at $9,000,000. According to the Commercial Observer, the property sale is being handled by Marcus & Millichap.
“It’s an opportunity to capitalize on the rent growth that has dramatically spiked in the neighborhood,” said Mr. (Jakub) Nowak (of Marcus & Millichap), who is promoting the space along with his colleague Matthew Rosenzweig, in a prepared statement. “Particularly national retail tenants will pay a premium for this large of a floorplate as opposed to legacy rentals in the area, which is predominantly composed of much smaller floorplates occupied by mom-and-pop tenants.”
...The longtime owners of the property are willing to vacate if the owners reach an agreement with a prospective buyer, the brokers said."
I have to say I've wondered about the future of the store for years, as its Polish base of customers has shrunk, and the store has placed more emphasis on its varieties of beer than its sausage. With the excellent Polish meat market, Jubilat, a block north, it's hard to see how the neighborhood can still support two makers of traditional foods.
There's been a Polish store at the corner of Fifth and 18th at least since the 1930s, when the South Slope/Greenwood area was home to a thriving Polish population. In 1952, a Daily Eagle article put the size of the "Polish colony" at 60,000 strong, and refered to businesses now vanished: Kostecki's butchers, Gladies bakery at Fourth & 24th - open at 5:00 am for hungry workers - and the White Eagle Tavern (whose crumbling remains can still be seen today), where summer dances were held in the back yard.
John and Richard Zawisny's father, Szecepan, came to Brooklyn from Poland in the 60's, and worked as a sausage maker in White Eagle Market. The Zawisnys took over the store in 1979. In '84, John Zawisny still saw the area as "very much a Polish neighborhood," but thirty years later he had a different story:
"It's changed completely ... It used to be a lot of families coming here to do their shopping. Now the neighborhoods's all hummus, veggie hot dogs and beer."
I've only known Eagle Provisions since the 80s, when it became our go-to place for kielbasa & kabanos, after leaving the East Village Kurowicky's behind when we moved to Brooklyn. Their hams were delicious too, and this was the only place nearby for good, fresh bread, especially the Lithuanian rye. And Eagle's epicurean delights really were a draw when there was nothing else remotely fancy on this part of Fifth: all kinds of honey and East European jams, a myriad of fruit and herbal teas, pickles and mustards before the Brooklyn Brands, and dried soups and mushrooms for winter days. But it has got quieter over the years, and the interior rather more down-at-heel. And the beer selection continues to take up more and more space. In truth, I liked the place best when the cheery Szecepan was still there. I liked seeing him bustling in the back of the shop, or outside in the summer, dealing with the customers buying plants. The language barrier was easily surmountable for the pleasures of greetings and shopping.
It's sad to think of the corner without those hand-painted signs. It's sad to think of a "national retail tenant" rather than a family business. A CVS perhaps, or a nice bank? Less space, or demand, for pierogi or babka, golapki, or paczki? I hope Eagle stays on Fifth, but am not too optimistic. The property market's sizzling.